Saturday 22 October 2016

Comment: Conor McGregor is simply an Irishman, not a barstool Republican or Monarchist

Ian O' Doherty

Published 30/10/2015 | 14:43

UFC star Conor McGregor
UFC star Conor McGregor

Honestly, what's the world coming to when we can't even expect our finest UFC bruiser to obey the finer points of diplomacy?

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When the previously obscure Sean Heuston 1916 Society (nope, me neither) decided to run a two year old picture of Conor McGregor wearing a tiny poppy on his lapel at an event in England, they were scathing in their criticism - which was as peevish and historically illiterate as you would expect from a group who named themselves after a train station.

According to them, McGregor: "Comes out to 1916 song 'The Foggy Dew' then wears a Poppy remembering the men who fought to kill and suppress them and the ideas they fought for."

This the kind of faux-Republican bilge we're going to have to sit through in the run up to next year's celebration of Ireland's 911, but McGregor ain't the sort of bloke to take such slurs lying down and he replied with the kind of ferocious combination he has become known for.

As the furious fighter put it in his characteristic style: "I know where my allegiance lies and what I do for my country. I don't need stupid little flower with a 100 different meanings to tell me I do or do not represent my country. I have the blood of many nations on my gloves. Fought and beat on the world stage. You have a pint in your hand and a Celtic jersey on in your local. Fuck you and the Queen."

When the initial reports of his outburst began to emerge last night, it was initially believed by many that McGregor had gone on some demented rant, railing against the Poppy, the Queen and the evil Brits.

But, as ever, the truth lay in the details.

He had not, as the usual suspects seemed to think, decided to pull a James McClean and engage in political posturing by slagging the Queen, he was merely responding to their assertion that by wearing a poppy he was somehow less of an Irish man than the bar stool freedom fighters who think knowing the lyrics to a few Wolfe Tones songs is more of an achievement than flying the flag around the world at UFC tournaments.

In fact, in case anyone had missed his earlier opinion on the controversy, he went on to add: "Fuck politics and fuck religion."

That's a sentiment that is shared by many people of all ages in this country, but that still didn't stop the slavering hordes of nay saying pygmies who wanted their pound of flesh from a man they would never confront personally.

So, is McGregor guilty of insulting the memory of the Irish who died in 1916? Or, as others say, is he guilty of insulting the Queen and all who sail in her?

In fairness to the man, he is guilty of neither - his only sin was to show his contempt for the kind of people who go rooting through two year old photographs to try to embarrass an Irish athlete.

In fact, by appearing to be so even-handedly dismissive of both sides of the argument there is one combative figure from recent Irish history to which he can be compared - Barry McGuigan.

After all, did McGuigan not express a similar - if rather more delicately couched - sentiment at a time when he was the only Irish person who could unite both sides of the sectarian divide?

Of course, it wouldn't be a McGregor story without the usual act of eejitry and his claim that he: "Has the blood of many nations on his gloves" may be correct, but is hardly comparable to the suffering of Irish soldiers in the mud of the Somme or on the insatiable, blood thirsty sands of Gallipoli.

For a man who can be hard to like at times, he is a remarkably easy bloke to defend - usually because his critics haven't a clue what they're talking about.

Interestingly, some of his supporters have urged him to turn the other cheek.

Well, he wouldn't be much of a fighter if he did that, would he?

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